ECC Students “Come Out” to Share Their Stories


Lisa Lilianstrom

SWANS Member Jay Cortez sharing their coming out story

Lisa Lilianstrom and Vanessa Passo

On National Coming Out Day, members of Elgin Community College club SWANS (Students Who Are Not Silent) hosted a panel with many of their members sharing their coming out stories.

National Coming Out Day is a LGBTQ awareness day which is usually observed on Oct. 11. The day came in to the United States in 1988, however, the ECC community has been liberating those of the community from as early on as the 1990’s.

SWANS was formerly known as GLOBES (Gays, Lesbains, or Bisexuals at ECC) which was founded and originated in 1991 from the very first organization at ECC, GLSU, Gay and Lesbian Student Union of ECC.

The nationally recognized day primarily focuses on the idea that people can share their sexual orientation with the world and those people can then live their lives as openly LGBTQ. It’s the feeling that they don’t have to hide who they are anymore to the world that they can just live their lives, and the LGBTQ community is remaining quite strong, as noted by Lori Clark, SWANS co adviser.

SWANS celebrated their 25th anniversary of the club this last spring. [The anniversary] was more so a celebration of the revival of the club,” said Clark.

The earlier days of SWANS, once known as GLOBES, had periods of being active and inactive. With the recognition of 25 years worth of student involvement, whether the actual club was active or not, Coming Out Day resonates among the LGBTQ community with a bit more meaning, according to some club members themselves.

SWANS Vice President Kassi Medina recently came out to her extended family and on Facebook. Which she said was not an easy thing for her to do and is happy with all of the responses she has gotten.

“I am just so overwhelmed by all the positive response that I have received,” said Medina.

While most of the coming out stories have had happy endings, there were some that had a rocky start. When SWANS Event Coordinator Jay Cortez came out to his mother on Christmas, it wasn’t the happiest response.

“I was very scared, when I came out to her she told me I was stupid and went to bed,” said Cortez.

When asked if there was any advice for those who are still in the closet, Cortez said you should never feel like you should be pressured to come out, because there may be people that want to come out but they aren’t in the right place to do it.

“If you aren’t in a safe environment to come out in then it gets complicated, you should never put yourself in harms way,” said Cortez.

SWANS President Flo Perez says that self-love is important when you are coming to terms with who you are.

“Just continuously be yourselves and appreciate who you are, come out whenever you want to come out,” said Perez.

While Perez’s relationship with his parents is as he described as “beautiful” today, Perez had gone 10 years without talking to them. He even admitted that coming out as transgender was a lot easier.

“My mom was like did I do something wrong in raising you, did you spend too much time with your male cousins, with your father, there was just crazy questions,” said Perez

The hardest thing about coming out was all of the harsh words they would receive from people, not just present-day but throughout the early 2000’s, as well. The very first meeting of GSLU (which became GLOBES, now formally known as SWANS) was unsuccessful to say the least; rumors spread that the attendees of the meeting would be photographed and circulated around campus. Negativity among such a community is not a new-found trend.

“They would call us confused, destructive, and that we are dividing people and no we aren’t trying to shove it in anyone’s face,” said SWANS Treasurer Avery Harmon.

When it came to relationships, SWANS member AJ Milledge had some advice when it came to who does what in the relationship.

“Some relationships have gender roles and some don’t, you should never assume anything about anyone,” said Milledge.

Perez ended with advice saying that while it may get off to a rocky start, life does get better especially when you have support.

“Just appreciate who you are, never lose hope,” said Perez.